How smart were those early black blues pioneers?
misconception about the blues is that African Americans in the genre’s early days
had no education. The great W. C. Handy, who virtually single-handedly
standardized the blues into its modern 12-bar format between 1912 and 1920, had
a teaching degree.
publishing partner, Harry Pace, who went on to found the African-American-owned
Black Swan Records in 1921, had two degrees. Their one-time employee, Fletcher
Henderson, also had a double degree, including a masters in chemistry. Fletcher
Henderson not only played piano and arranged many of the early blues
recordings, he was also considered instrumental in taking black music to the
white masses when he joined up with Benny Goodman’s band in 1934. Part of the
deal was that Goodman bought 36 of Henderson’s arrangements for his exclusive
|Trixie Smith in a later movie.|
African American, Trixie Smith, 27, from Atlanta, Georgia, recorded, ‘My Man
Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)’ on Black Swan, in 1922, thought to be the first musical
reference to rock & roll. The song’s composer was J. Bernie Barbour, a
black double music graduate from Kentucky, born in 1881. With N. Clark Smith as
his partner, Barbour had opened an African American publishing house in Chicago
in 1903, probably America’s first.